5 March 2012

Book Review: The Summer of Living Dangerously by Julie Cohen

"Alice Woodstock has her life under control. She's successful and she's happy - as long as she continues to ignore the hurt from her past. But when said past walks back into her life in the shape of Leo - the man who broke her heart - Alice is desperate for an escape route. She finds the perfect thing - a new job as a tour guide in a Regency stately home. But as she immerses herself in acting out the stories of the house, Alice begins to see parallels with her own life, forcing her to confront her feelings about what she wants and, finally, live in the real world."

Rating: 5/5

I loved Julie Cohen's 2011 release Getting Away With It, it was funny, it was fresh and I loved every page. Therefore, when I was sent a copy of her new book The Summer of Living Dangerously to review, complete with turquoise and lime coloured cover, I couldn't resist diving it straight away. The idea of the story being tied in with the Regency period really interested me, it isn't a period of time I know anything about if I'm honest so I was curious to see how Cohen would make it accessible to her readers and make it sound authentic without going overboard with the details. Of course, I had nothing to worry about because this was a joy to read, and I really did love the character of Alice and didn't want to leave her behind!

Alice Woodstock is a brilliant character. In fact, we almost see two Alice's throughout the book - Alice in the modern day, and Alice stuck in 1814 as well. Alice manages to land herself a job of playing a historical character at a local stately home, where the employees have to literally become the people of 1814, no talk of modern day is allowed, and they have fantastic costumes as well. Alice finds it easy to lose herself in this time, where she can escape the hurt she's feeling inside due to the pain in her real life. I loved how easily Cohen writes about the Regency period, and its clear that she has put a lot of research into this book, from the costumes, to the etiquette to life in general of that period, and it made for wonderful reading. I was totally able to escape 2012 when I was reading, and join Alice and co in their lives in 1814, and I loved it.

Alice in the modern day was a bit of a different story. Her ex-husband Leo Allingham is back on the scene after many years away, and Alice is struggling to deal with him being back in her life... in fact very much in her life as they end up sharing a house together, something Alice really isn't pleased about. Behind her bravado and fun loving exterior, Alice is hiding a painful secret that is shaping her as a person, and its a very tragic secret. When it was revealed, I was shocked as it was the last thing I was expecting from this book, but Cohen weaves it so wonderfully into the story, it seems right that it's there, and things begin to make sense about Alice. It's a raw and emotive topic, but Cohen writes so well about it, the heart-breaking parts and the good parts all at once, you feel Alice's pain and feel so sorry for her. I thought this was a really good inclusion to the book, and gives a totally different side to the book that you really don't expect.

I really loved this book, and found it to be a totally different read to what I expected when I began this book. It has a cast of characters that you will love, from the fantastic Alice, to loveable rogue Leo, Alice's sister Pippi who is going through some troubles of her own, and the cast of the regency home as well. It's a book that weaves seamless from the old to the new without a hitch, and makes for a joyful read, as well as teaching you a thing or two about 1814 as well! I loved the Alice of both 1814 and 2012, and her journey is certainly a special one, and the inclusion of the hurt in her past makes the book all the more poignant, and makes you all the more desperate for a happy ending! It's a wonderfully written, emotional yet happy tale and one I highly recommend you seek out now, it's fabulous! You'll find yourself whizzing through the pages quickly as you become absorbed in the life of Alice Woodstock - and why not?! Simply brilliant.

You can buy The Summer of Living Dangerously as a paperback or an eBook now!

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